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Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson bemoans release of ‘Death Wish’ re-make

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson | Sun-Times filed

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson on Friday bemoaned the release of a “Death Wish” re-make shot in Chicago, calling the movie insensitive to the still-grieving family of beloved Cmdr. Paul Bauer.

Bauer, the 53-year-old commander of the Near North District, was shot six times on the afternoon of Feb. 13 in a stairwell outside the Thompson Center, where he had confronted a man who was fleeing other officers.

Shomari Legghette, a career criminal wearing body armor, was charged and held without bond for Bauer’s murder.

The modern-day version of a “Death Wish” franchise that starred actor Charles Bronson hit movie theaters Friday.

Actor Bruce Willis plays the part of Dr. Paul Kersey, an Evanston emergency room surgeon who breaks bad – and delivers vigilante justice – to avenge the murder of his wife and daughter killed by home intruders.

The movie shows the ease with which the surgeon-turned-vigilante purchases the weapons and ammunition needed to get even. It also shows the carnage left behind as Kersey gets even.

For Johnson, the movie is ill-timed to say the least.

It’s “not the kind of narrative we want for our city”– particularly not while Bauer’s wife, Erin, and their 13-year-old daughter, Grace, are still grieving along with the entire Chicago Police Department, the superintendent said.

“We need to respect the rights of people and the feelings of different people. When you look at the Paul Bauer shooting, it just really bothers me when people put things out there that would disturb the family,” Johnson said, during a taping of the WLS-AM Radio program “Connected to Chicago,” to be broadcast at 7 p.m. Sunday.

“Those people are going through enough. Give them a chance to process what’s happened and to try to get back to as much normalcy as they can before we start using different things to exploit it. I wish that Hollywood would just be mindful of those types of things. The bottom line for them is money. I recognize they have a business to run. I just wish they would be more empathetic to people.”

Last week, Erin Bauer wrote an open letter thanking Chicagoans who waited hours in the cold to pay their respects at her husband’s Bridgeport wake and lined the streets during his funeral procession for their “outpouring of love and support.”

“One man almost stole my faith in humanity, but the City of Chicago and the rest of the nation restored it and I want to thank you for that,” Erin Bauer wrote.

On Friday, Johnson marveled at the strength shown by Erin and Grace Bauer and said it has lifted the entire police department.

“You kind of liken it to when a platoon in the military loses their general. It just has a debilitating effect on ’em. They’re starting to bounce back. But the department is still hurting,” Johnson said.

“Erin and Grace have really managed to prop up the police department….Having gotten to know both of them, it’s amazing to me the strength and the courage that they’ve shown. Those two are showing the country what it means to be Chicago strong.”

As always after the injury or death of a police officer, the Chicago Police Department is doing, what’s known in bureaucratic circles as an “after-action report” to determine whether any changes in training, tactics or departmental orders are needed to prevent a similar tragedy.

At first glance, Johnson doesn’t think so.

“Nothing really sticks out because Paul was doing what cops do. When they hear their fellow officers come over the radio looking for someone, if you’re in that vicinity, it’s just our instinct to go help address it,” Johnson said.

“There was nothing done in that situation that shouldn’t have been done. Perhaps we can look at making sure people have the appropriate assistance around them at the time. I’m really thinking about when command personnel go out on patrol that they all have drivers with them or someone who can assist them. But he was downtown for a meeting. So, it really wouldn’t have affected that. He just did what he was trained to do.”